Since hemp and its extracts became fully legal in late 2018, wellness experts have embraced cannabis in a big way. Cannabidiol (CBD) has been the star of the show so far, which has caused many consumers to ask, “What is CBD, and what can it do for me?”
CBD products made with hemp extracts provide consumers with a number of wellness support options. But cannabigerol, or CBG, recently started to get more attention for its potential uses for wellness.
Many cannabinoids are found in Cannabis sativa – around 120 – but cannabigerol (CBG) is probably one of the less known compounds. However, it does play a rather significant role that involves CBD and many other cannabinoids.
But what is CBG and how does it differ from CBD and other cannabis extracts?
Below, we’ll take a look at CBG’s origins, how it compares to CBD, possible CBG benefits, and where consumers can find it.
What Is CBG and Where Does it Come From?
CBG is a nonintoxicating substance found in plants of the Cannabis genus that may offer a variety of applications for humans. In other words, CBG comes from hemp, doesn’t get you high, and may also provide wellness benefits – much like CBD cannabinoids.
Researchers describe CBG as a minor cannabinoid because cannabis plants produce smaller amounts of the substance compared to major cannabinoids like CBD and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). CBG typically makes up less than one percent of the cannabis plant by weight.
But the acidic form of CBG, known as cannabigerolic acid (CBGA), is an integral part of the plant’s production of CBD, and THC.
Often referred to as a “mother cannabinoid,” CBG is the organic compound that CBD and several other cannabinoids originally started as. Inside cannabis plants, CBG is in its cannabigerolic acid (CBGA) form and acts as an elementary unit to several other cannabinoids.
Plant enzymes in maturing cannabis plants convert most of their CBGA into the acidic forms of CBD and THC – CBDA and THCA respectively.
A process called decarboxylation, which occurs when the plant matter is exposed to ultraviolet light or heat, converts those acids into CBD and THC.
That same decarboxylation process can convert CBGA into CBG, but it happens on a much smaller scale compared to the major cannabinoids.
When a cannabis plant starts to mature, the CBGA uses particular enzymes to synthesize into cannabidiolic acid (CBDA), tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA), and cannabichromenic acid (CBCA).
Once the CBGA converts into those other molecular compounds, there are only low concentrations of the cannabinoid left inside a mature cannabis plant. And when heat enters into the mix, each of these structures loses a carbon element and converts into its more recognizable form – CBG, CBD, CBC, or THC.
And the costs of extracting CBG oil are significantly higher than other cannabinoids because a specialized chromatography mechanism is needed to precisely isolate and purify CBG extracts without needing an increased amount of raw hemp materials.
Ultimately, that means CBG is expensive and hard to extract in meaningful amounts. That’s why wellness formulas with CBG as the main ingredient are extremely rare.
Because of its rarity, there isn’t as much information available regarding what is CBG oil or CBG products as there is on CBD oil. CBD is more abundant because as cannabis plants mature, their CBG content converts into other cannabinoids.
Some botanists have started work to create strains of hemp that will yield greater amounts of CBG. They’ve also determined that it’s possible to harvest plants earlier in the growing cycle to optimize CBG extraction. But there’s still a lot of work to do on this front.
CBG vs. CBD: What’s the Difference?
In understanding what is CBG, it’s important to understand how it contrasts with CBD.
Slight molecular differences between the two substances result in significantly different CBD and CBG effects.
Researchers observe that CBG appears to bind well to the cell receptors of the body’s endocannabinoid system. As a result, CBG may cause a direct response.
Research indicates that CBD molecules can partially bind to CB1 receptors – cannabinoid connectors located in the brain and that make up half of the endocannabinoid system – which may be the primary reason why it works against THC effects.
Other evidence suggests that CBG could also affect CB2 receptors; however, the results couldn’t pinpoint how exactly. Researchers have also said that CBG contributes to the “entourage effect” by working in synergy with other cannabinoids and terpenes.
By contrast, CBD appears to have a lower affinity, but can still affect these receptors in another way. Instead of binding with the receptors, they may instead block them from interacting with other substances.
For an oversimplified example, think about a square-shaped hole and two differently shaped pegs – one square and another circle.
Sized correctly, both pegs fit snugly into the square-shaped hole. But research seems to suggest that the square peg acts more like CBG, interacting with all sides and corners of the space.
On the other hand, the circle-shaped peg appears to work more like the CBD. It may fit the space and hold securely, but it doesn’t fully interact with all the edges. It also effectively blocks the insertion of any other pegs.
What Does the Research Say About CBG’s Benefits?
Medical scientists have completed a few studies to discover various CBG oil benefits. Those experiments focused on CBG and its effect on the human body. Their outcomes provide plenty of reasons to get excited about the possible benefits of CBG, but it’s important to understand that these are only preliminary results.
Since these studies used large doses of isolated CBG in non-human test subjects, they do not provide conclusive evidence that CBG oil benefits are useful to treat or prevent any disease in humans. Consumers can’t expect the same effects from the supplemental servings found in today’s wellness products.